Focal Cities Mexico City

Domestic workers at a workshop in Mexico City

In Mexico, 57 per cent of workers are employed in the informal economy – more than half the country's employed population.

In Mexico City (CDMX), 23 per cent of the economically-active population is informally employed, while 24 per cent are in formal employment and 53 per cent are not employed.

Mexico City with its new, progressive Constitution (which includes the concept of the right to the city and recognizes non-salaried workers as workers), presents unique opportunities and challenges to mobilize informal workers in diverse occupations around their needs.

NEW: Victories for Domestic Workers in Mexico in December 2018

In 2017, Focal Cities CDMX began working with a variety of groups in the city – including research institutions, activists and membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers. The occupational groups WIEGO works with in CDMX include (but are not limited to): street vendors, market vendors, recyclers, domestic workers, mariachi musicians, artisans and shoe shiners. The current work builds on WIEGO's “Voice Project” (2011-13), which aimed to foster dialogue between workers and government officials.

NEW VIDEO (March 2019):  Primer Congreso de Tesistas en Trabajo no Clásico: On 8 March 2019, Tania Espinoza Sánchez, WIEGO's Focal City Co-ordinator for Mexico City participated in a Seminar on Work and Equality at El Colegio de México (Colmex). Tania's presentation highlighted challenges faced by informal workers in Mexico. 

VIDEO (October 2018): Exposición Trabajadores Invisibles en la CDMX (Invisible Workers Exhibition at the CDMX, video in Spanish): On September 25, 2018, the exhibition "Invisible Workers" opened at el Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia (the Museum of Memory and Tolerance) in Mexico City. This photographic exhibition reveals the precarious working conditions in which the informal waste pickers who clean Mexico City work.

Specific goals of the project include:

  • Building capacity of informal workers and their organizations in areas such as: advocacy for policy change, collective bargaining and negotiation, and legal and regulatory frameworks.
  • Supporting informal workers and their organizations in the development and dissemination of platforms of demands and/or recommendations on inclusive planning and regulatory frameworks in Mexico City.
  • Supporting MBOs to establish and engage in dialogue and negotiations with city and national public officials to promote mutual understanding and to allow workers to provide input on laws, regulations and social policies that directly affect their livelihoods.


"Dialogues on Public Space: Informal Work and Mobility"

Held in June 2018, this event--part of our work with Cities Alliance--created a space for dialogue and discussion between informal workers who perform their activities in the public space and activists of groups of pedestrians and cyclists whose mobility agendas sometimes ignore the right to public space as a work space.The dialogue brought together workers from various occupational groups, such as street-vendors, shoeshiners, organ-grinders, waste pickers and tianguistas (market vendor), as well as guests from different groups representing pedestrians and cyclists. The coordinator of the Mexico City Focal City project, Tania Espinoza, and the project assistant of the Mexico City Focal City project Yuleina Carmona presented at the event.

Watch a video about the workshop (in Spanish).

Learning exchanges and capacity building:

Focal Cities CDMX aims to build and strengthen networks of support for informal workers both within the city and across the region. For example, in 2017 Focal Cities CDMX facilitated a Latin American regional exchange of domestic workers, together with the Institute of Leadership Simon de Beauvoir, local domestic worker organization Centro de Apoyo y Capacitación para Empleadas del Hogar (CACEH) and the national domestic worker trade union the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores del Hogar (SINACTRAHO). Over 30 domestic workers from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Uruguay met to share experiences and discuss strategies on social security legislation and ratification of C189 (ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers). During the exchange, workers and support organizations developed a political platform to demand mandatory social security for domestic workers in Mexico based on good practices and lessons learned from other countries, which Mexican domestic workers subsequently presented in the Senate.

Mobilization and advocacy for secondary legislation:

The progressive language in Mexico City’s new constitution has created a reference point and window of opportunity for the development of inclusive secondary legislation for informal workers who work in public space. In 2017, Focal Cities CDMX organized two “mesas,” or weekly standing meetings, with representatives from several different occupational groups to discuss potential secondary legislation for self-employed workers; including a clause-by-clause review of existing regulations and their impact. One of these ongoing mesas brings together shoe shiners, musicians and artisans, while the other involves street vendor groups. The workers’ input on the legislation is bring provided to a legal expert who will create a draft, which will again be reviewed by the workers before it is finalized and used for advocacy.

Resources and Publications

Blog posts:

WIEGO Publication Series:

Relating Quality of Employment to Informal Employment, WIEGO Statistical Brief No 15. Carré, Françoise, Rodrigo Negrete and Joann Vanek, Nov. 2016.

WIEGO Resources

Panorama de la situación de trabajadores y trabajadoras en empleo informal en la Ciudad de México: Recomendaciones para una ciudad más inclusiva. Carmona, Yuleina, Feb. 2019.

News articles:

Articles on waste pickers in Mexico City written by Focal Cities Coordinator Tania Espinosa (all in Spanish):

Videos (Spanish only):

Injustas condiciones para un trabajo tan importante Barrenderos CDMX 

CDHDF emite recomendación por violaciones en el sistema de recolección de basura